“I was in my third year in college when I had my first psychotic episode. I always knew that I was different. I felt alienated in a lot of ways from my peers. For a long time, I was trying to find answers to the ‘why’, but all too often in the wrong places. In my teens, I began to be interested in spirituality. I went along to seminars; I read books and went to therapy classes. One was called Authentic Movement. It was about getting spiritual healing through movement and dance. These classes paired with a seminar about mind-power may have triggered something, because I started to have all these weird, out-of-body experiences. I began to feel and see energy. I had no clue what was happening, but I knew that I was experiencing these classes on a totally different level. Back then, I thought that I may be on a spiritual journey.
I identified my experiences to that of shamans. The truth was that I was really unwell, I just didn’t know it yet. There was a girl I fancied in college; I was too shy to talk to her. One day, I woke up with her voice in my head. It was so realistic. I got this idea that this must be a sign of true love and that I had to find her and tell her. I was too shy to ask her out in college, so I decided to find where she lived. I didn’t know her address, but I jumped on my bicycle and I began to go around the area where I thought she lived. At some point, I became so obsessed with finding her that I was literally knocking on doors asking if somebody knew her. I could not find where she lived, but her voice was becoming so overwhelming that I decided to go up the mountains to get a bit of headspace. As soon as I got there, it all began. I started to hallucinate and hearing all sorts of voices in my head. I felt all this visible energy rushing through me from above, it was all so ecstatic and magical for a while, but it soon turned really dark.”
2/2 “I felt that my soul was leaving my body and I heard God telling me that the only way I can be saved is if I become a worm and build myself up in the chain of creation again. He said the only chance to start over was if I took my life right there and then. I was totally disconnected from reality at that point. There was a river nearby, River Doddler. I took all my clothes off and I jumped in it. I went downriver mostly on my back. There were a lot of rocks and they cut my back quite badly. I eventually started to go underwater, but each time I came to the surface, I felt my soul return for a moment. I went underwater about four times and I was sure that I was about to die. When I came up the fourth time, I felt God was satisfied with me. I proved myself and my soul could return. I climbed out to the rocks and I lost consciousness. I was lucky because somebody walked by and found me, so I ended up in a hospital.
When I woke up, I found myself wrapped in tinfoil blankets. They told me that I was lucky to be here because my body temperature was three degrees below sustainable life when I got there. That was my first schizophrenic episode, but not the last one. I was hospitalized 17 times. The last time I was hospitalized was five years ago. It’s a good break. I was really struggling before I found my Grow Mental Health Group. When I first joined two fellow group members, of similar age spoke about their own psychotic episodes and I laughed briefly and said that I felt, at last, I was in ‘good company’. As strange as it sounds, I felt a sense of comfort being there. I also heard a sentence in those early meetings that really helped me to stick to the programme: ‘Whatever the trouble is, no matter what has happened to me, no matter how terrible or distressing or seemingly shameful it may be, it is one of those things that happens to human beings.”
It is estimated that 1% of people who suffer from a serious mental illness may result in a psychotic episode. It is so important that anyone reading this and relating to Jonathan’s experience, find the right support group, recovery program and other necessary support.
Talking to someone who has ‘been there’ can be the first step in feeling better. If you think that talking to others who have experienced mental health challenges could help, there is a Grow group nearby waiting to welcome you.